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  • The city still seemed new to me. I only ventured in on weekends, and even then it was usually for just a few hours. Not knowing street names or landmarks added to the mystery of this town I was soon to call home. It was a city with a reputation that preceded it; in literature, and film, and in stories I had heard. A city so great that I, like many before me, had moved across the country to pay too much rent and live in a tiny apartment with three other 20-somethings still in school.

    So as Lisa and I drove across the bridge and into the city, still aglow from the setting sun, an excitement grew inside me. We did not have an itinerary, but we had a car, half a tank of gas, and Janis Joplin blasting on the radio. Lisa was from the suburbs so she knew about as much about the twists and turns of the city as I did. We parked in an unassuming lot downtown and began to wander. Business hours were long over so all store fronts were closed, and the few lights in the buildings overhead were barely noticeable against the black night sky.

    We could ever so slightly hear the passing cars from Market Street. It had rained the day before and their tires against the train tracks quietly hissed as they passed. We had chosen wisely; a part of town that slept at night, immune to the bars and clubs of the Mission district.

    And so we walked. We walked for blocks, my hand running across the walls of the buildings. Their texture changed, some brick, others concrete. But always my fingers against their damp exterior, binding me ever so slightly to their enormous structure.

    I don't know how long we walked. Or what we spoke of if we spoke at all. I do know that hours later we arrived at Dolores Park. The hillside which was loud and vibrant and crawling with life during the day now sat silent. The wind through the nearby trees seemed to be the only noise louder than my heartbeat. Tired from our night Lisa and I found a place to sit high atop the hill.

    For the first time I could see the city, really see the city. The twists and turns, the intersecting streets and long alleys we had wandered now lay out before us. The longer we sat the more I could see. The details on nearby church steeples, the arch of a rooftop on an old Victorian house, the unique angles found between the overlapping buildings in the distance. The skyline while gracious and elegant, seemed foreign to me, not yet something I could call my own.

    It was only when Lisa shook me awake that I realized I had fallen sleep in the park. At first I did not understand why the sky looked so different or the shadows on the ground had changed. But as my eyes adjusted I began to recognize the glow of the horizon, the sun breaking through the morning fog. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and sat up again. Slowly, as if not to disturb its occupants, the city began to wake as well. The light crept slowly across the buildings, washing away the darkness of the night before.

    But still the park was silent, and Lisa and I had run out of things to say. Moments later the morning sprinklers began their work on the field below. Their soft clicking noise as they turned left, then right, then left again. Sitting atop our perch, watching as the city woke, I knew we had to go. Lisa and I had class in a few hours and the smell of the previous night draped across us like a heavy blanket. But as we stood and walked across the grass I couldn't help but smile. For although our night had ended I knew my love affair with the city had just begun.
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